How we beat an online framing quote

Recently a client came to our framing department with a set of five small artworks. An online framer quoted $80 each, a total of $400 to frame all five. A faithful Color Wheel customer, she wondered if we could beat their price.

The art wasn't a standard size, but with the addition of custom cut mats, the pieces fit nicely into 11x14 readymade frames. The Artcare aluminum frames selected by the client include UV protective glass, an archival off-white mat, and archival backing. We cut single custom archival mats, hinged the artwork, and completed assembly.

The Nielsen readymade frames we carry are 30% off their list price. Each framed piece cost $52, including frame, custom acid-free mat, and labor, for a total of $260 plus tax. The client had her pieces framed at Color Wheel, saving $140 over the online quote.

It pays to be an educated consumer and to compare similar products, 'apples to oranges' as people say.

What is custom framing anyway? Custom framing means made-to-order. Instead of buying a dress off-the-rack, it's like visiting a skilled seamstress, choosing a wedding dress design, selecting lovely fabric, and having it made-to-your-measure. Color Wheel offers custom framing, including handmade frames with real gold leaf, but we also offer readymade frames as an affordable option.

Honestly, neither $52 nor $80 will buy custom framing of real quality.

So how can you figure out if you're comparing apples to oranges? Framing jobs may look similar, but the materials used can be very different. 

The online quote didn’t specify the quality of the framing materials. We also visited the best known locally based site and couldn’t find that information. Surely if online companies offered acid-free materials, UV Protective glazing, and frames made of wood or metal, they would trumpet these facts. It's likely a customer would receive an acidic paper mat, thin plastic for glazing, and a resin-composite or plastic frame. That makes $80 a high price to pay for convenience.

With a Nielsen Bainbridge Artcare readymade (at 30% off list price), our client has aluminum frames, acid-free matting, and UV glass. With readymade frames purchased at Color Wheel, we offer a low fitting fee as a courtesy. 

There are other drawbacks to online framing. The site we visited offered matting in only white or off-white, and had about thirty frame choices, different finishes but all very similar in style. And artwork must be sent back and forth by mail.

We use superior products in our custom framing. Our frames are made of wood or metal and many of our mouldings are still manufactured in Europe. We offer hundreds of mats and have approximately 4,000 frame samples from which to choose. All work is done onsite in our frame shop. Our clients also have the benefit of our knowledgeable and highly skilled staff.

So, can Color Wheel beat an online quote? The answer is yes, in more ways than price alone.  

—Katy Lewis

Examples of jobs completed with 
Nielsen Bainbridge Readymade Wall Frames and custom cut mats